Too Sick for School?
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Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP posted:
Can my child return to day care? Can he go to school tomorrow? Will she be well enough for her birthday party this weekend? I get asked these questions daily.

Generally speaking, she can be around other kids once her fever has been gone for 24 hours and she is feeling better. If your child has been placed on an antibiotic for any reason, she should receive the medication for at least 24 hours before being around other children.
If you kept your child home every time he had the sniffles he'd never be in school. And the older he gets, the harder it is to make up missed schoolwork. So if he feels okay and doesn't have a fever, he should be in school. But, if your child has a fever (temperature over 100.3), is vomiting, having bad diarrhea, coughing up a storm, has pain interfering with activity or really isn't feeling well, keep him at home until these symptoms are under control.

Often it's the milder symptoms (such as slight runny nose and cough) that leave parents wondering what to do. Only you can make that game-day decision, but be considerate of others. Before you take him out, think to yourself, would I want another child with the same symptoms around my son? You can always check with your child care or preschool. They may have specific guidelines for when previously sick children can return.

You know your child best, so if you think something is wrong, don't send him to school. If you're concerned, call your pediatrician.

What symptoms mean you don't hesitate to keep them home? Have you ever sent your child to school and then later regretted sending them?

- Dr. Tanya
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Lainey_WebMD_Staff responded:
Hello Dr. Tanya,


This very incident happened to my granddaughter last week. My daughter kept her home due to a fever and sore throat but by the next day my granddaughter seemed ok and I took her to school although unsure that she was fully recovered. Within a few hours, I received a call from the school nurse who informed me that my granddaughter's fever came back and I needed to pick her up. I felt terrible because in my heart I knew she should stay home. Medications sometimes mask the symptoms and I doubted myself but I won't do that again. I fully agree with Dr. Tanya's statement "You know your child best, so if you think something is wrong, don't send him to school. If you're concerned, call your pediatrician." Excellent advice!
 
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Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
This is the forever question. My kids vary so much between their "sick" signals it can be hard to tell whether they should stay at home.

My son commonly has headaches and a runny nose...but doesn't otherwise seem sick. He goes to school anyway. When he is really sick, he has this "look" that I can't exactly explain. If he throws up, he definitely is staying home.

Two of my daughters are prone to "nervous" stomachs and get bellyaches when stressed, angry, upset. Vomiting doesn't mean a day off for them unless there seems to be something else going on.

Of course, this backfired on my ex-husband two years ago. Youngest claimed her stomach hurt before school, he sent her anyway. She ended up throwing up in the classroom and getting sent home. (to be fair, it was after another child had thrown up in the classroom)

Another child hides being sick like a wounded animal. (seriously: she broke her thumb skating and we didn't know it until the next day. She broke her wrist and by the time we got her to the hospital we all thought she was fine and we were wasting our time. She has gotten up and ready for school with a 102 fever.) If she actually claims sickness or starts going to bed super early, then I generally assess what is going on and keep her home.

Does anyone else get these mixed signals from children about illness or is my family just weird?